Lexus ES300 - Motor revs, but car doesn't move

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Dear Experts,
I'm hoping to find someone who might have heard of this problem/symptom, and know the solution.
I have a 99 Lexus ES300 Coach Edition, with about 86K miles now.
Automatic transmission. Very similar to a Camry XLE V6. Bought used last year.
This past week, it wouldn't start without a boost. So today, I changed the battery. And installed a powerful 800 cold cranking amp battery. The old battery had a bad cell.
But even before I did this, I noticed that the transmission wasn't engaging the way it normally did. On the way to the battery shop, the engine started. I put my foot on the brake and put the car in gear. But the familiar push from the idle was not there. I had to rev the engine before it moved.
And tonight, when I was driving home, I had to rev the engine to about 5 or 6 thousand RPM before it accelerated.
And soon when I was driving down the highway, any more gas (RPM) would not make the car go any faster. I was just coasting, and coasted over to the side of the road. After that, it would not go forward or backward. Even if the engine was running at a few thousand RPM.
So, the symptom is that the engine seems to run fine. Up to 6K rpm fine. But when you put the car in gear, it won't go at all. But there are no new lights illuminating the dashboard, such as the check engine light. There doesn't seem to be any strange mechanical sound.
Only 86K miles! My Camry went to 180K and the transmission worked fine.
Does anyone know what would be the cause and/or solution would be? I'm hoping that it will be something simple like an electrical issue. Perhaps the NOX sensor?
Thanks a lot!
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In article
condor snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Best find $2500 or so for a trans rebuild.
Ask me about my 94 ES sometime.
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Yes, do tell. Tell me about your 94 ES. Thanks.

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In article
condor snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

I acquired it at 125K miles, back in Dec. 2003. A couple weeks later, it had the very transmission troubles you described. Finally, a week later, it just wouldn't move.
$2500 later, it was fine again.
The car itself and the engine were things of beauty--the engine just ran and ran, it ran strong, got good gas mileage, started up EVERY time, the AC was COLD, the stereo was great, it drove GREAT in the snow, and overall I LOVED driving that car. I put 50K miles on it within the next 3 years, and other than that transmission and a couple other things--I think I got a new starter and a reman front axle when a CV boot split--it was a great car.
In fact, I'd buy another tomorrow if I needed a car.
But I will always look at Toyota transmissions as being weak. There's no excuse for the Lexus brand to have that particular trouble.
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Well, as far as the underlying engineering, Lexus is just a Toyota. So while we agree that they're nicely dolled up (for example, the Camry- based Lexus ES, RX), you don't get any more engineering in a U-660E transmission sold by Aisin, either in a Toyota or a Lexus, or whichever car company wanting to buy the problematic U-660E from Aisin.

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john wrote:

Sounds like you just can't afford a Lexus. Wasn't that you crying the other day when you saw a new Lexus drive down the street while you were in your 2001 Toyota Corolla with torn cloth seats, bald tires, and three tone paint?
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First thing to check would be the ATF fluid level.
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I was about to ask about the driving habits of everyone who's used the car. But then I noticed that you bought it used. So much for useful information about how the car's been treated. Unless the transmission had some kind of nasty defect to begin with, it takes real skill to wreck it in 86K miles.
So, like someone else said, open the checkbook.
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Well, I'd say that about the newer Aisin U-series clunkers. but the older A-series was generally OK for normal driving, but flimsy when you push them, especially the differential assembly.
wrote:

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First, check the condition and fill level of the automatic transmission fluid (ATF). The ATF should be red or reddish-brown and translucent. If it is black or if there are shiny metallic flakes on the transmission dipstick, the transmission is probably bad. If the fluid level is low, then add the correct ATF.
One of the things that will prematurely wear a transmission is shifting from drive to reverse and vice versa before the vehicle comes to a complete stop. Shifting directions while the vehicle is in motion has the effect of rapidly wearing the friction surfaces in the transmission. I see people do this a lot, and their transmissions rarely last much past 100,000 miles.
An electrical issue would probably cause the check engine light or OD light to illuminate, and since the vehicle did move for a while, an electrical issue is not likely.
There is no NOX sensor in the vehicle. Oxides of nitrogen are reduced by the vehicle's exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system and a malfunctioning EGR system may cause the engine to stall but would not result in the symptoms you are describing.
The engine is equipped with knock sensors. When the knock sensors detect engine knocking or pinging, the engine control computer will retard ignition timing but will not result in the symptoms you are describing.
The symptoms you are describing sounds like a badly worn transmission, or if the transmission was flushed within the past year, then dislodged internal sludge may have clogged an internal fluid passage.
If the vehicle is not drivable, then a proper diagnosis would require hooking up a transmission pressure gauge for a series of pressure tests.
--

Ray O
(correct punctuation to reply)
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Yea like most comments check the ATF level first. And its condition. I was never sure how to do this. Until I checked and found ( told by Toyota Auto box guy ) Run car at least 10 miles. Leave car idling. Then check the dip stick level.
I always felt when Toyota filled mine that it was over filled. But I was not checking it RUNNING.
I hope you find a better solution than opening that Cheque book.
My 1995 4 has 98K miles on now
Good luck
Johnny UK
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Well it sounds like you have done the most important thing ---- you put it in gear! That is reallllly important. How was reverse? Did you try it yet?
Second in importance is to check the fluid and make sure there is some. If you need to add, put real tranny fluid in, not just water. It does get hot, but the special tranny fluid cools much better than water does. And besides, water is just too thin and ... well ... watery.
Another thing to check is the year of manufacture. The first year of production 1993 ES tranny had this neat little white ball in it that used to dissolve around 80 to 90,000 miles. Then the tranny would work a little bit in reverse and much less in forward. So the cheap guys would drive their 93s in to the dealer in reverse to trade them in. Most dealers never caught on believing their own line about how good the product was. That white ball required a really simple total rebuild. Just a few thousand dollars. Maybe your 99 was retro-fitted or maybe it was really a 93.
So the Lexus has a rich history of transmission trouble. They have always had to try much harder by using at least one more gear than the German trannies have. But of course the Japanese trannies are just plain rough, no way around it when compared to the German products found in true Luxury Karz.
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Some people sell their cars as soon as they learn of major problems. And sounds like this is one of them. As stated by others, the simplest cause can be low ATF level. Just check and add the proper amount if low. When any 86K mile transmission stopped moving these days, I'd guess it's either heavily abused or never been serviced.
Another cause is low ATF line pressure. If these A-series transmission have never been serviced every 30K miles (or 15K in severe service), then the friction/steel debris in there probably plugged up a few things. This can cause accelerated wear to clutch packs and brake bands, and you basically have to do a rebuild.
These inexpensive Aisin A-series transmissions are fairly dirty and they lack a suitable filtration system (they have only strainers). That's why they should be serviced (including strainer) every 15K miles if you intend to keep them. They're kinda flimsy when you push them, not performance transmissions by any means, but work well in typical driving. Some owners have reported they crap out around 80-120K miles.
So I'd: 1. Check fluild level and condition. 2. Drop the pan, replace the strainer (Fram ATF kit), inspect wear particles and wipe pan clean. Refill with proper amount of ATF. Cleanliness is important here. See if this fixes it.
Then it starts to get involved:
3. If not, measure main line pressure. 4. Consider pulling valve body and inspect/clean it and slap on a new VB gasket kit (see local transtarindustries.com) before you consider a rebuild.
And then it really gets expensive:
5. Rebuild or get a re-manufactured transmission. Call Jasper Engines and see if they have one for your model/year. http://www.jasperengines.com/index.php
I'd recommend only Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Assoc (ATRA) members. Click on "Find your local ATRA Member".
www.atra.com
On Jul 1, 2:52am, condor snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

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These inexpensive Aisin A-series transmissions...... ================= Is Aisin a brand name, or are you attempting to describe where they're made?
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Not where they are made, by who makes them. You don't think there are actually "Toyota transmissions", "Toyota gas", "Toyota spark plugs", "Toyota tires" do you? ;) ;) ;)
Aisin AW (Aisin-Warner) is the company that makes transmissions for Toyota and some other makes, including some GM and Ford cars!! They had a joint venture with Borg Warner for all the transmission technology, that's why a division is called Aisin-Warner. There are different divisions that makes truck transmissions and probably goes by other names, like Aisin Seiki, etc. That said, Toyota does invest a sizable chunk in the company.
The new U-series clunkers came into play after they discontinued the joint venture, and that seemed to coincide with a lot more transmission problems like shifting and gear skipping issues we've heard about.
wrote: These inexpensive Aisin A-series transmissions...... ==================
Is Aisin a brand name, or are you attempting to describe where they're made?
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I'm always amazed when any manufacturer is able to look at many examples of things that work, and then make a conscious decision to make things that don't work. Genius Scott Adams is exploring a similar issue at the moment. Check July 1, 2 and 3.
http://dilbert.com/strips /
wrote: These inexpensive Aisin A-series transmissions...... ================= Is Aisin a brand name, or are you attempting to describe where they're made?
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john wrote:

If you could get a better job that paid you more than the $9.75 you get now, you could dream about getting a luxury Lexus but that will always escape you. Too bad. HA HA HA HA
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On Wed, 01 Jul 2009 02:52:47 -0700, condor_222 wrote:

====== That's rough, having that kind of transmission problem so soon after buying the Lexus. Good luck to you. It might have been a good idea to have gotten an ATF fluid analysis done on the car before buying it. Blackstone Labs would have charged $22. 86,000 miles sure is premature for a transmission failure.
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On Wed, 1 Jul 2009 02:52:47 -0700 (PDT), condor snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

[snip]
This sounds like something I had and probably why I got the car at such a good price. An ES300 with 86K on it is barely broken in, so I doubt it is the transmission.
For me it was some kind of electronic control, possibly even related to cruise control. Sorry I don't remember all the details, or even any of them. I do remember after they did some diagnosis they replaced a control unit and everything worked fine after that. It wasn't easy for them to find, so don't buy "the transmission needs to be replaced" until they really check. I remember it was less than $1K.
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wrote:

As I mentioned before, the proper diagnosis for the condition described by the OP would be to check the condition and quantity of ATF and install a transmission pressure gauge to measure line pressures. These simple steps will tell a competent technician whether or not the transmission is good or not.
--

Ray O
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